Day 2 in the life of an at-large delegate to the DNC: Morgan A. Johnson shares moments from the inside

This week from Philadelphia, demVoices is bringing our followers a view of the Democratic National Convention through the eyes of one of Ohio’s at-large delegates, Morgan A. Johnson. We will be sharing posts from Morgan throughout the week, so stay tuned in on our social media! (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). You can also follow Morgan on Twitter @MAJ_OSU.

Read: Day 1 post

Greetings from Day Two of the Democratic National Convention.

Hello, demVoices readers!

Wow. So many feelings. If you read my last entry, you would know I am at the DNC as a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders. For any Bernie backers like me, day one was tough.

At the beginning of the day, following 5 hours of sleep, we started out with a breakfast at 7AM. That’s earlier than any of my college classes! But, this is the convention, and that’s how we do things.

Guess who I ran into on my way to breakfast…? None other than the notorious, celeb Democrat, former mayor of Cincinnati, Jerry Springer! I hesitantly asked to have my photo taken with him, saying I was terrible for asking. (It’s easy to get starstruck at the convention!) He said, ‘of course you aren’t terrible!’ How. Cool.

Me with Jerry Springer, former mayor of Cincinnati! (JER-RY, JER-RY!)Me with Jerry Springer, former mayor of Cincinnati! (JER-RY, JER-RY!)
At breakfast, we had an awesome speaker lineup. Every day of the convention, states have speakers come speak to the delegations. Keep in mind that most members of the Bernie group were new to attending the DNC, and had showed up to support Bernie and the progressive platform he stood for, so the notion that Hillary had to be elected was a tough pill to swallow. I am certainly of the belief that we can best deliver the promise of Bernie’s message by standing by the steps he outlined, which is to defeat Trump — who, as Buzzfeed put it, is a health hazard to America — and then keep fighting for the progressive goals and vision that we know the Democratic Party can achieve. It was clear that regardless of what we planned on doing, this Ohio Bernie delegation wanted its opportunity to fulfill the promise of casting our roll-call votes for the candidate we selected.

Day 2, Monday, we left the hotel via bus ride to the Philadelphia. It was HOT. We rushed to our air conditioned shuttles, then to the convention hall to participate in meetings with Bernie platform leaders on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and with Sanders surrogates and leaders. This is the meeting I’m sure you’ve heard about if you’ve been following convention news. When Sanders noted that we need to elect Hillary, some members of the room booed. I can’t deny, this did happen.

For myself, and for fellow youth delegates for Bernie who I traveled with, seeing this reaction was a real blow. We were surrounded by the disappointment, hurt, grief, anger, confusion, and mistrust so many supporters felt. We empathized with them, as we too worked for over a year in the hopes of electing Bernie the next President of the United States of America. We, too, were soul-searching, asking ourselves the essential questions like: What is our role now? Why are we here? Where is our place within the political system? How will we save our generation from the kind of semi-rational apathy that is held in the hearts of some of our fellow progressive supporters of Sen. Sanders?

We decided it was our job to help ensure that Bernie could be heard — that his message received full attention and respect. We tried to quell the booing from our cohorts as best we could.

At the end of Bernie’s difficult speech with a difficult crowd reaction, we moved on to the Wells Fargo Center, where we would step onto the floor of the DNC for the first time. On our way, in the hallways, we were so pleased to see that all the restrooms at the center were gender neutral. We went to the restroom as a group, enjoying this small but meaningful victory towards everyday social equity for all people.

We took a mirror selfie to give us a reminder of this significant little milestone, and moved to the floor.

We took a mirror selfie to give us a reminder of this significant little milestone, and moved to the floor.

The floor was packed. The stage and the hall are beautiful and, of course, in shades of blue. I vaguely thought about how significant party colors are, and how they matched what their respective groups’ messages are in 2016. Blue is a calming color, and this convention was meant to surround voters (and delegates) with a direct yet clear commitment to providing a calm, stable alternative to the more ignited discussions that the RNC provided last week via Donald Trump.

Many notable folks took the stage on Monday night. Ruby, a 93-year-old delegate from Ohio who’s attending her 8th convention, led the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a proud moment for all of us. And that moment was one of the little reminders that we needed to bridge the gaps between delegations, states, ranks, and backgrounds. It reassured us that our journey in public service could be a rewarding, full-circle experience, and that we could have the same passion for the process when we reach 93, just as Ruby has today for her role and her candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Ruby Gilliam, the convention’s oldest delegate (from Ohio!), is joined on stage by Clarissa Rodriguez, the convention’s youngest delegate. Rodriguez is 17 years old. Gilliam is 93.

Partway through the day, I was fortunate to run into my friend and fellow delegate, Councilwoman Tara Moseley Samples from Akron, who was with former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner. Both ladies are members of our delegation. They directed me to join them, which was humbling, as I have engaged with 1000’s of young progressives for whom Nina is a personal hero. We stood in the hall outside the convention floor, and sure enough, we were approached by groups of supporters.

I spoke with a young man from Cincinnati and we discussed the heart of the movement we’re a part of. I met a group of delegates from Arizona who were in tears at the sight of Nina, one of their idols in the fight for immigration justice. I met a group of older delegates who said that Bernie re-ignited a passion that they haven’t felt for a presidential candidate since Bobby Kennedy. Standing next to a hero of the progressive movement, and hearing so many people’s stories, gave me a small glimpse into Nina’s world. Hers is a world where you cannot just be a dreamer with a new vision for the future of America. It’s a world where you also have to be a lighthouse, standing tall for others, helping them find their way through the storm.

Monday’s speakers were many progressive heroes that I have idolized for years. Senator Cory Booker. Senator Elizabeth Warren. Senator Bernie Sanders. All were clear in their intentions to lift people up, while tearing bigotry down. After hearing Bernie’s first speech and seeing the fallout, I was grateful to him for standing up for us in his later speech that night. I was grateful to hear him assuring us that our needs and the vision he gave voice to was being heard and acted on within the Democratic platform. He spoke, and he promised his delegates a roll-call vote, ensuring that all of the hard work we had done over the past year+ would be accounted for and quantified. He told the thousands of newcomers to this political process that we would be given a primary education in primary voting. He afforded us a learning experience and risked a lot for us to have that. I imagine he had folks like me in mind, who are so young that this had to have been our first convention, and others, like my roommates in their 50’s and 60’s, who had never attended a national convention (or wanted to) until now. He acclimated us to a process, and let us to learn how to have a place in the party system for years to come. I don’t think there was a single Bernie backer with a dry eye in that room after the end of his speech. Missing, thankfully, were the boos.

With that, myself and other youth delegates boarded the busses back to our hotel, skipping the evening cocktail hours because we were tired and a little shaken up from a tough day, and we went to sleep.

Catch ya in my Tuesday recap, demVoices readers. Until then,